Home' Asian Aviation : AAV_Nov 2012 Contents 32 AsianAviation | NOVEMBER 2012
ATR has made a breakthrough into the
Japanese market, with start-up LINK
signing a letter of intent to take three
ATR 72-600s from an unnamed lessor.
The new airline will work closely with Japanese full-
service carrier StarFlyer, which will help out with the
start-up phase and route planning. LINK is currently
based in Tokyo but is looking to move to Fukuoka on
Japan's southernmost Kyushu Island.
It will serve Western and Central Japan and some
short-haul international routes - South Korea is not
very far away.
LINK has yet to decide on a base - it could be
Fukuoka or Kitakyushu Airport - the latter is the base
of Starflyer. Fukuoka, Japan's fourth largest airport, is
crowded and has a night time curfew. Kitakyushu is a
relatively new, underutilised airport. The two carriers
signed a basic agreement in early October and are
still working on the details.
LINK was formed earlier this year by management
consultant Koichi Sugiyama with backing from
private investors and "famous companies" in the
Sugiyama says it will take around a year to get
the airline up and running, partly due to the need for
type certification on the new aircraft and acquiring an
operators certificate. The company's business plan
envisages an IPO after two years of operation.
The airline will have a large seat pitch - the largest
of any regional airline in Japan, says Sugiyama.
"Customers want comfortable travel," he says,
adding that this was one of the key reasons for
picking the ATR 72-600. LINK did a comparison
with the Bombardier Q400, which was slightly faster,
Sugiyama says, but not by enough margin to add
any more rotations. The Q400 was also considerably
heavier, while the new ATR72-600 cabin was a major
attraction. "ATR cabin comfort levels are very high,"
Sugiyama believes there is a space for increased
regional operations in Japan. "The low-cost carriers
are all working with major airlines and flying major
routes. Trains, meanwhile, still have high ticket
prices." He says that while "we make an effort to
reduce costs, we are not an LCC."
ATR chief executive officer Filippo Bagnato,
meanwhile, hopes the deal will act as a springboard
for further penetration of the Japanese market. "We
hope to repeat the success we had in Australia," he
says - pointing to the recent success of ATR in that
market, particularly with Virgin Australia.
"Clearly this is the beginning. All long marches
begin with one small step," he says of the LINK deal.
"It is the right utilisation of the right aircraft for the
right routes for the right number of passengers."
Spares and technical training will come out of
ATR's regional centre in Singapore, which is due
to offer -600 training from the end of the year. The
Singapore facility is due to get a -600 full flight
simulator in December this year.
The ATR 72-600s will be equipped with new Pratt
& Whitney 127M engines and new full-glass cockpit
developed by Thales. They will also be equipped with
the new Armonia cabin, developed by Italian designer
Giugiaro, featuring what ATR describes as "the most
modern layout and most advanced technologies in
the field of passenger comfort."
• ATR's Training Center has obtained FR.ATO.0001
certificate. This makes it the very first training
organization in France to meet the new European
"PART FCL" standards, which now define the EC
regulations for pilots' licenses. ATR thus becomes
the first "Approved Training Organization" in France
under this new regulation put forth by the European
Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Lilian Braylé, ATR's senior vice-president product
support & services, said: "This certification underlines
the quality of the training offered and the modern
nature of the tools made available to our students.
With the growth of the ATR fleet worldwide, we
owe it to ourselves to guarantee excellence in the
trainings we offer. Obtaining this new certification fits
into this context of high standards and illustrates the
responsiveness that we demonstrated to implement
"It is the right utilisation of the right aircraft for the right routes for the right
number of passengers." Filippo Bagnato, chief executive officer, ATR
ATR has broken into the Japanese market
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